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Maritime (1934-67)

Mick Imlah, 7 February 2002

... With a few soft words Her Majesty Christened the liner built as ‘504’: ‘I name this ship – Myself. God bless . . .’ The towering masterpiece of the Depression, She rose from the not-so-bonny Bank of Clyde (Bombed to a pit for its pains in ’41). Meanwhile, John Masefield wrote a handsome poem (‘Shredding a trackway like a mile of snow ...

Cockney

Mick Imlah, 3 September 1987

... How heightened the taste! – of champagne at the piano; of little side-kisses to tickle the fancy At the party to mark our sarcastic account of the overblown Mass of the Masses by Finzi (An aristocrat who betrayed what he stood for and set up in Bow with his matchgirl fiancée); Moreover, the skit I had chosen to grace the occasion (‘My Way – in the Setting for Tuba by Mahler’) Had even the Previns in generous stitches (it seemed an acceptable social milieu If only because it was something like six million light years away from the planet of Millwall) When the buffet arrived; and as we applauded the crudités carved into miniature flats and sharps There crept into mind for a desperate moment the ghost of me mum shuffling back from the shops With a Saturday treat – ‘Look! We got sausages, beans, an’ chips!’ So I mentally told her to stuff it, and turned, with a shivering reflex of anger To harangue a superior brace of brunettes for their preference of Verdi to Wagner; But again she appeared at the door, with the salt and the sacred vinegar And I was reclaimed ...

Two Poems

Robert Crawford, 17 February 2011

... oot, Twa young men. Daith taks the lot, They sey, But, ach, Thae sangs He’s nivver Gonnae get. Mick Imlah Than Orpheus befor Pluto sat doune, And in his handis quhyte his harp can ta …            Henryson, ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ The day you died I stared up at the grey Dome of St Paul’s, then caught the sleeper ...

Speaking in Tongues

Robert Crawford, 8 February 1996

The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 
edited and introduced by Roderick Watson.
Edinburgh, 752 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 7486 0607 6
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... anthology (published in 1970) again there was no Gaelic. Recently, Penguin have commissioned Mick Imlah to edit a new Scottish anthology. Will he allow Sorley MacLean’s voice to accompany MacDiarmid’s? To the best of my knowledge, nobody has been asked to do a new Oxford anthology, though the youngest poet in their extant volume, Iain Crichton ...

Callaloo

Robert Crawford, 20 April 1989

Northlight 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £8.95, September 1988, 0 571 15229 5
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A Field of Vision 
by Charles Causley.
Macmillan, 68 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 333 48229 8
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Seeker, Reaper 
by George Campbell Hay and Archie MacAlister.
Saltire Society, 30 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 85411 041 0
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In Through the Head 
by William McIlvanney.
Mainstream, 192 pp., £9.95, September 1988, 1 85158 169 3
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The New British Poetry 
edited by Gillian Allnutt, Fred D’Aguiar, Ken Edwards and Eric Mottram.
Paladin, 361 pp., £6.95, September 1988, 0 586 08765 6
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Complete Poems 
by Martin Bell, edited by Peter Porter.
Bloodaxe, 240 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 1 85224 043 1
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First and Always: Poems for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital 
edited by Lawrence Sail.
Faber, 69 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 0 571 55374 5
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Birthmarks 
by Mick Imlah.
Chatto, 61 pp., £4.95, September 1988, 0 7011 3358 9
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... of the best-known contemporary British poets. Maybe the state should buy some copies of this book. Mick Imlah’s poems ask the question ‘Whey you from?’ in a lively variety of ways. Birthmarks speak of origins you can’t rub off. Under the cosmetic voice-surgery of social climbing lies the Ur-accent of home. In ‘Cockney’ an aspiring ...

Not What Anybody Says

Michael Wood: James Fenton, 13 September 2012

Yellow Tulips: Poems 1968-2011 
by James Fenton.
Faber, 164 pp., £14.99, May 2012, 978 0 571 27382 9
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... think of the following poem, another recent one. This is ‘At the Kerb’, written in memory of Mick Imlah, who died in 2009 at the age of 52 – he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease a year earlier. The manner of the poem is statelier than that of the previous example, striking a mildly archaic note borrowed from ‘Ode on a Grecian ...

Are we there yet?

Seamus Perry: Tennyson, 20 January 2011

The Major Works 
by Alfred Tennyson, edited by Adam Roberts.
Oxford, 626 pp., £10.99, August 2009, 978 0 19 957276 2
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... though among more modern poets the trail is more elusive it has not quite disappeared. The late Mick Imlah edited a very good selection of Tennyson for Faber, and his last book of verse, The Lost Leader, contains ‘In Memoriam Alfred Lord Tennyson’. The speaker of the poem and his companion have gone to visit one of Tennyson’s houses in a spirit ...

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